As expected, Oregon's Edward Cheserek and the University of Colorado men defended their respective NCAA Cross Country titles on Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. The men's race started very slow with everyone waiting for someone to take control. Syracuse's men were in eighth at the 3K split, fifth at the 5k split, and had moved up to third at the 8K mark. At this point, Cheserek took control and pushed the pace over the final 2,000 meters. He combined with Eric Jenkins to give the Ducks a 1-2 finish.
Colorado used its superior depth to hold off Stanford. The Buffs placed all five runners in the top 35 and their 65 points left them comfortably ahead of Stanford's 98. The tight pack that the Syracuse men displayed all season wasn't able to hold together over the final 2K. The Orange ended up in fifth place with 206 points, trailing Portland (175) and Northern Arizona (188).
MJ Erb led the Orange with a 37th-place finish in 30:52, and was closely followed by Martin Hehir (38th, 30:54), Max Straneva (42nd, 30:58), and Dan Lennon (45th, 31:03). Unfortunately for Syracuse, the five through seven runners - Colin Bennie (95th,31:30), Justyn Knight (143rd, 31:53)and Joel Hubbard (165th, 32:04) were unable to stay with the top four and that hurt the final team standings.
Both Erb and Hehir earned All-American honors for their performances, and this marked two straight years where Erb has run his best race at the NCAA meet. I know some might be disappointed with a fifth place finish, but look at the list above and you'll see just one senior in the group. SU will miss Max Straneva, Reed Kamyszek and Andrew Palmer, but this is a group which should be in contention again in 2015. Next year the Orange will not be able to sneak up on anyone, but it's exciting times for the program.
The Syracuse women ended their season finishing 24th out of 31 teams. Margo Malone led the Orange with a 63rd-place finish in a time of 20:58 for the 6K course. SU's other runners were Jesse Petersen (130th, 21:25), Maura Linde (140th, 21:29), Rebecca Skodis (188th, 21:50), Sydney Leiher (198th, 21:55), Haley Cutright (238th, 22:42), and Angelica Peck (247th, 23:05).
The women's team champion was Michigan State with 85 points and Kate Avery from Iona ran away from the field to take the individual title in a time of 19:31.
Like the men, SU's women will only lose two out of their top seven runners. The team will need to develop a closer gap behind Malone as the Orange look to return to the 2015 NCAA meet at Louisville. It's still a great accomplishment for the team and coaches for getting both the men and women to qualify for Nationals.